It was 2007 when the Flyers brought in both Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell in a pre-draft trade with Nashville, instantly revitalizing the roster from head to toe. Upon joining the fold in Philly, both players immediately signed contract extensions, with Timonen’s coming in at six years and $38 million. This past season marked the final year of his initial contract, and one could argue that it might have been his best stint with the Orange and Black.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: people age, and hockey players aren’t any different. Timonen is not the same defender he once was, and it was awfully evident at times. The coaching staff also noticed, as he averaged less than 22 minutes of playing time for the second straight season. As a smaller defenseman, #44 could ill afford to lose his speed, but he definitely seemed slower – especially when it came to accelerating after a change in direction. Because of this, he took more penalties than he has since the first year after the lockout.
So what is it he did so well? With less time on ice than he has had in years, Timonen still managed to average more points than he has since his contract year with the Predators in 06-07, easily putting him on pace for his best statistical season with the Flyers to date. He tied for 6th in points amongst defenders, outscoring the likes of Shea Weber and Dustin Byfuglien (amongst many others). In a year where the Flyers needed Timonen to produce to even have a chance, he clearly rose to the occasion.
That being said, it’s tough to gauge Timonen’s success this season based on his cap hit and expectations. On one side of things, he is far and away the highest paid player on the blue line, making almost $2 million more than his closest active comparable. He needed to be the Flyers #1 defenseman without question, and at times he didn’t seem up to the challenge. But is it fair to hold this against him, since this contract was signed so long ago? Expecting him to be the same player he was when he signed that deal is simply unfair, and I don’t think anyone expected him to be so productive offensively.
If it boils down to whether or not he contributed to the team’s sporadic success, the answer is obviously yes; but for a cap hit north of $6 million, is it unfair to expect more?
Unfortunately for Timonen, this question will not go away next year. The Finn signed a one-year contract extension for $6 million on the nose, setting the expectations high for the aging defender yet again. Having signed this extension knowing his capabilities, age will no longer be an excuse for a lack of performance.
If he can maintain his level of play, he should continue to be an asset to the Flyers from the blue line. However, if the team again falls to the bottom of the pack, the pressure could be on for him to waive his no movement clause for greener pastures, freeing up plenty of cap space for the Flyers on the back end.
However it may happen, the Kimmo Timonen era in Philadelphia will soon be coming to a close, bringing about a massive questions for the Flyers on defense.
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